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May 2022

The inability of young children to reproduce intensity differences in musical rhythms

Author(s): Drake, C.

Journal/Book: Percept Psychophys. 1990; 48: 91-101.

Abstract: A musical rhythm can be described in terms of both its temporal and its dynamic structure. However, although 6-year-old children are able to perceive and reproduce simple temporal structures, even 8-year-olds rarely reproduce intensity differences. Four experiments on the perception and reproduction of musical rhythms by 5- to 8-year-old children demonstrate that even though dynamic structure is clearly dominated by its temporal support, intensity differences play a role in reinforcing the temporal structure. The inability of children to reproduce intensity differences appears to be due neither to an inability to control the intensity of their tap responses nor to the fact that they cannot perceive such changes in intensity. Rather, the results seem best interpreted in terms of the allocation of attentional resources. With simple stimulus material (Experiments 1-3), the children focused on temporal information, and only when the processing of temporal information was mastered did they have "enough attention left" to direct it to intensity differences (Experiment 2). With more complex orchestral music (Experiment 4), attention was primarily allocated to the dynamic structure.

Keyword(s): Attention ; Child ; Child, Preschool; Discrimination Learning; Psychoacoustics Child Development; Loudness Perception; Memory ; Music ; Recall ; Time Perception Female; Human; Male


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